Right to Life of Idaho distances itself from recent anti-abortion proposals

Updated Jan. 31

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

In Idaho, two similar proposals are generating chatter: One from freshman Sen. Dan Foreman that would classify abortion as first-degree murder, and a petition circulating that would do the same. Both would open the door for charging doctors and women with murder for providing or seeking an abortion.

But neither has the backing of one of the state’s most influential anti-abortion organizations.

Right to Life of Idaho does not support any action that would criminalize women for abortion, said Kerry Uhlenkott, legislative coordinator for Right to Life of Idaho.

“Subjecting women to criminal penalties for an abortion is inconsistent with the historic pro-life position,” Right to Life of Idaho said in a statement sent to Idaho Reports. “We have never supported legislation containing criminal penalties for women. We stand with women and men to offer them realistic alternatives to abortion.”

Abolish Abortion Idaho responded to RTLI’s opposition with two statements: One addressing whether most women are coerced into abortion, and one addressing whether women who seek abortions should be exempt from murder charges.  You can read both on AAI’s website.

Read RTLI’s full statement below.

“Right to Life of Idaho does not support any legislative action that would subject women to criminal penalties for an abortion.

Based on our experience and the experience of our 19 Idaho Pregnancy Care Centers and hearing the stories of thousands of post-abortive women and couples, we are convinced that abortion is most often a tragically desperate act. Available research indicates that coercion is often a factor in over 64% of the cases when women experience abortion. Despite rhetoric from advocates of abortion on demand, abortion is most often NOT freely chosen by women. Many woman come to deeply regret the loss of their child to abortion.

Subjecting women to criminal penalties for an abortion is inconsistent with the historic pro-life position. We have never supported legislation containing criminal penalties for women. We stand with women and men to offer them realistic alternatives to abortion. We stand with our Pregnancy Care Centers that daily provide compassion and hope to women who consider abortion in a moment of desperation.”


How to overturn an election.


By Nishant Mohan

The Senate State Affairs Committee voted unanimously to recommend the senate confirm the election of Sen. Mark Nye, D-Pocatello, after reviewing a contest of election by Nye’s opponent, Tom Katsilometes, Monday.

Katsilometes alleged Nye received illegal campaign contributions, violated “The Sunshine Law,” and was given an advantage in the election by faulty ballot machines.

“I just don’t think any of these issues are sufficient enough, if they even exist, are they sufficient enough to lead us to a new election or any other conclusion,” said Sen. Pro Tem Brent Hill. “If a possible violation of title 67 chapter 66 would create grounds for a contest of election, how many of us would be in trouble? Just go onto the Secretary of State’s website and look at how many amendment campaign disclosure reports are filed.”

Some senators on the committee said they felt rushed in the time allowed for them to understand the material.

“It was rather daunting when the secretary of state brought the apple box full of documents to us and said ‘good luck,’” said Sen. Siddoway, chair of the committee.

Idaho Code 34-2106 allows any elector to contest an election. The code defines an elector as anyone registered to vote in the election. The contestant need only contest within 20 days of the election. The statute has no other restrictions, and the body is required to review the contest.

Nye and Katsilometes’ counsels faced about an hour of questioning each from Republican senators, mostly from Majority Leader Sen. Bart Davis. Democratic senators asked no questions of either side. Nye, though present, did not speak during the proceeding and no questions were asked of him.

Contest of an election is rare, and last occurred in 1981. Minutes of the State Affairs Committee from the time state that then-Lt. Governor Phil Batt presented to the committee “the ‘box’ which he had received from the Secretary of State and which contained material pertaining to the election challenge of Senator Peavy.”

By contesting the election, Katsilometes was granted power of subpoena by Idaho Code 34-2108, a power only limited by the incumbent’s ability to challenge the subpoenas. This power is granted to anyone contesting an election. The legislature is given the authority to hear challenges and Hill deferred one of the only two challenges to Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis and reviewed the other himself.

In the 1981 case, lawmakers on the committee expressed concern over ease of contesting an election.

“Anyone can sue you if the have the money to file,” said then-Sen. Jim Risch at the time. “This may be something that needs looking at in the future in our laws.”

Article 3 Section 9 of the Idaho Constitution states that “Each house, when assembled shall…judge of the election, qualifications and returns of its own members…”

“The senate has absolute discretion here,” said Brian Kane, assistant chief deputy to the attorney general. “There is no appeal.”

Lt. Governor Brad Little said last week that state code requires the Secretary of State’s office collect and deliver evidence in the case of a contested election, regardless of whether the evidence is substantial. He said the code was originally intended to require the presentation of the actual ballots, but that a modern contest looks different.

The minutes from the 1981 contest state that several committee members raised questions about improving the election laws on challenges, voter registration, and roving registrars.

Sen. Jeff Siddoway, who chaired the committee, said the senate is looking at ways to improve this process and will be exploring legislation throughout the year.

Nye, formerly a member of the Idaho House of Representatives, was elected last year to the Idaho Senate.


Who lost the most on Thursday? District 1 constituents.



In the hours after Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, was stripped of her legislative committee assignments, some Idaho conservatives are unhappy with the move.

Scott lost her committee assignments after being accused of publicly saying women lawmakers get leadership positions only if they “spread their legs.” (Read more, via Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review, and Kimberlee Kruesi of the Associated Press.) And regardless of whether people blame Scott or House leadership, District 1 constituents has one fewer voice in legislative committees to represent their interests.

Some of those constituents are criticizing House Speaker Scott Bedke, not Rep. Scott.

“With the action of Speaker Bedke today 55,000 citizens have lost their voice in the Idaho legislature,” wrote Victoria Zeischegg, president of Bonner County Republican Women Inc., in an e-mail to House members on Thursday afternoon. “I would like to know by what authority Speaker Bedke has the right to remove Rep. Heather Scott from all of her committees, and why has he not explained his actions?”

“We are a representative government and it sickens me to think you need to be reminded of that,” Zeischegg continued. “I strongly urge you to return Heather to her committees and give us our voice back.”

“I can barely contain my fury at the actions off Speaker Bedke today,” wrote Anita Aurit in another e-mail to legislators. “An entire district of voters have lost their voice in the Idaho legislature and I would like to knew, in detail, the reasoning and more importantly, the facts regarding this travesty.”

 “Every citizen in Heather Scott’s district is due a detailed and complete explanation of the reason for this action, facts, not lies, innuendos or the less than reliable “reporting” of the not the  mainstream press),” Aurit wrote.

Though Scott will no longer serve on legislative committees, she is still able to vote and debate on the House floor, as well as propose legislation.

Whether or not committee chairmen will hear that legislation, however, is another issue — particularly the women who were the targets of Scott’s alleged remarks.

As to whether Bedke has the power to do this: He does.

Scott, Zeischegg and Aurit couldn’t be reached for comment. (We’ll update if that changes.)

North Idaho conservatives weren’t alone in their displeasure. In an e-mail sent to all House members, Maria Nate of Rexburg blasted lawmakers for not standing up for Scott on the House floor.

“I am disgusted and dismayed at the removal of Heather Scott from her committee assignments. I am even more dismayed that only one person rose to object to such a power move by Speaker Bedke,” Nate wrote in an e-mail sent just before noon on Thursday. “Apparently in the Idaho Legislature it is ok to commit adultery but it is not ok to talk about it. Time to drain the swamp.”

Maria Nate is the wife of Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg. On Thursday, Rep. Nate attempted to object to Scott being taken off her three committees. When contacted for comment by Idaho Reports, Maria Nate said she had nothing to add to her e-mail remarks.

In late 2016, Reps. Nate and Scott launched growingfreedomidaho.com, which features a conservative legislative agenda and links to e-mail committee members. As bills get introduced, the site will offer conservative policy and impact analysis. 

In a statement posted to Facebook on Thursday afternoon, Scott theorized the timing of the scandal breaking in the news was no accident.

” It is probably no coincidence that the latest ‘stir’ from within the catacombs of ‘leadership’ comes on the heels of the recently published freedom website helping citizens to keep better tabs on legislation and legislators called www.growingfreedomforidaho.com,” she wrote.

Scott’s various controversies are well-documented, and other conservative Republicans have told reporters they disagree with her tactics and actions. “We’re here to solve problems, not create problems,” said Rep. Eric Redman R-Athol, in an interview with Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review. “A lot of areas we agree on, but you’re still part of the body. I think that’s very important. We can express our disagreements but not be belligerent.”

House Speaker Scott Bedke told Russell he wouldn’t comment on Thursday’s actions, other than to say it was the most difficult decision he’s made so far as speaker. 


Democrats agree with the Governor’s vision but doubt likelihood.

By Nishant Mohan

With no action taken last year to provide healthcare to the Medicaid gap, expand the Idaho Human Rights Act to LGBT citizens, or increase public education spending well above pre-recession levels, Democrats objected to parts of Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter’s State of the State Address.

The speech and minority party’s response echoed last year’s.

“We agree that the governor has set a strategic vision by shooting for 60 percent post-high school educational attainment, but we doubt the governor can influence the majority party to accomplish his vision,” said House Minority Leader Matt Erpelding.

Idaho Democrats share Governor Otter’s priority on education, but have their own emphasis on early childhood education. Erpelding said his party supports a proposal he called a “gateway to early childhood education” put forth by Idaho Business for Education to prepare 4-year-olds for kindergarten.

Though in the overwhelming minority, Erpelding said he thinks the party will secure hearings for some of the bills it will propose.

“In invasive species and cybersecurity, there seems to be a real will,” said Michelle Stennett, Senate Minority Leader.

Democrats also responded to Otter’s denouncement of the Affordable Care Act and leaving out any mention of Add the Words legislation despite asking the legislature last year for a solution.

“Our plan is to update the human rights act,” said Erpelding. “Our plan is to introduce them, have the conversations, and if the majority party doesn’t want to do that, to ask them for their solutions.”

This year, Democrats are working with two fewer seats than last year’s legislature and a new Republican president and Congress at the national level.


What’s on your mind?

Idaho Reports wants to hear from you. What would you like lawmakers to focus on during the 2017 legislative session? Whether it’s school funding, taxes, economic development, social issues or more, let us know in a short video.

Record your message to lawmakers and upload it to YouTube. Send the link to melissa.davlin@idahoptv.org with the subject “Message To Lawmakers” by noon Thursday, Jan. 5, and we might feature your video on the Jan. 6 episode of Idaho Reports. Include your full name, town where you live, and phone number. We won’t share your number with anyone, but we may call in case we have any questions. 

We reserve the right to edit any videos we choose to air for clarity or length. 

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What’s new at Idaho Reports


Idaho Reports returns on January 6, with hour-long episodes through the end of the 2017 legislative session.


In the last twelve months, we’ve focused on connecting the policies made at the statehouse in Boise with rural communities throughout Idaho. Our 2017 season will be no different. We’ll continue to bring interviews and commentary with the state’s political insiders, while spotlighting the Idaho citizens and towns affected by those decisions. While we’ll take a hard look at the Legislature’s 2017 priorities, we’ll also examine what is important to Idahoans, regardless of whether it’s being discussed in the Capitol. We’re currently looking into issues regarding transportation, health care, mental health, the economy, and education. Watch for updates.

On January 9, Idaho Public Television will air Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s State of the State address live, with Idaho Reports providing commentary and analysis immediately following the speech.


Idaho Reports Associate Producer Nishant Mohan

We have a new associate producer, Nishant Mohan. Mohan is a journalism student at the University of Idaho. He has worked for the Idaho Statesman, the Idaho Press Tribune, Idaho Public Radio, and the University of Idaho Argonaut. Follow Mohan on Twitter: @nishantrmohan.

If you’re not already connected with us on social media, you can follow us: @IdahoReports, @davlinnews, and @aaronkunz. You can also find us on Facebook.